Flight attendants at American Airlines are resisting a decision by the carrier to shutter a long-running crew base in San Francisco where more than 400 flight attendants are based. Crew members have been given until the end of the month to decide what State they are willing to move to in order to keep their jobs.
The Dallas Fort Worth-based airline only made the shock announcement last week after insiders leaked details of the plan. The decision took many staffers by surprise because AA was allowing flight attendants to transfer into the base as recently as last month.
A spokesperson for American says the airline took the “difficult decision” to close its San Francisco crew base because there were “no future flying prospects based on our current network strategy”.
There has been a flight attendant base in SFO for more than 50 years, but the spokesperson added that over the last few years, “American’s network and schedule have evolved based on a number of factors, including our size, shifting customer demand and changes to our fleet.”
In order to keep their jobs, flight attendants say they are being expected to uproot their entire lives. There are no vacant positions at AA’s Los Angeles based, and only a few free spots in Phoenix.
Most flight attendants are being asked to move to eight other far-flung bases including Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas Fort Worth, LaGuardia, Miami, Philadephia and Washington DC.
Transfer requests are being treated as ‘voluntary’ moves so AA won’t pay displaced flight attendants’ moving expenses.
In an open letter to AA chief executive Robert Isom, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) says its members in San Francisco feel “abandoned and unsupported”.
“While the decision to close a base may only come down to numbers for you, it greatly affects our lives and livelihoods,” the letter continues. “We have families here. Spouses with careers. Children settled in schools. Aging parents who depend on our support. Friends and communities essential to our mental health.”
“So many details had not yet been considered, turning these stressful circumstances into a slap in the face. Just as the airline is returning to profitability, and Flight Attendants are optimistic that our operation may soon return to normal, we are left asking why now.”
“We should never choose profits over people. Our SFO-based Flight Attendants feel like just numbers in the system.”
Despite the sudden nature of the announcement, American Airlines has distanced itself from allegations that the base closure is connected to California’s employee meal break rules.
Airlines have been told they must comply with the rules but the law only applies to California-based flight attendants meaning there is less incentive to have flight attendants based in the state.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.